Posted On June 26, 2021
I’m not having a good run with anime, of late. I recently said Steins;Gate would have to be the most frustrating anime I’ve ever watched and in Unbreakable Machine-Doll we have an anime which, if it was longer than its 12 episodes, I would have cut and run after the first half-dozen. But I like seeing how stories play out, however, and being a short series I stuck with it, even though I didn’t enjoy it.
First, what attracted me to this anime? Well, the story seemed quite interesting. It’s set in an alternate history version of the UK in the early 20th century. OK, tick. Scientists have created a mixture of technology and sorcery known as Machinart. OK, tick. The Automatons created by Machinart have humans in charge of them, known as puppeteers. OK, tick. It’s all sounding great so far, right?
Then we have Raishin Akabane coming from Japan to Liverpool to study at the Walpurgis Royal Academy of Machinart, along with his automaton Yaya. OK, tick. Sounds like it might be a little Harry Potter with the magic and the school setting. Now, once every four years, the Academy holds a “Night Party” where puppeteers use their automatons to fight in hopes of obtaining the title of “Wiseman”. OK, that sounds pretty cool. Raishin, it’s revealed, has entered the school to get into the competition in order to get revenge on a mysterious genius who killed the members of his family. OK, fantastic. We’ve got Harry Potter, with automatons and fighting and revenge. This should be great… right?!
And… it’s not. The first episode begins and we immediately learn that Raishin’s automaton, Yaya, talks like a baby/idiot/take your pick. She never says, “I”, she will say, “Yaya”. So, “I’d like to tell you something…” becomes, “Yaya wants to tell you something…” and it’s annoying AF. Add to this that Yaya seems to be absolutely sex-crazed, and we have this child-like automaton suggesting some pretty crude stuff. As the episodes pass, it’s clear this is meant to be humour. Yes, the automaton is sex-crazed; obsessed with bedding Raishin and insanely, violently jealous of any “real” girls who get close to him… but Raishin isn’t into it. He’s not using his automaton as a sex doll or anything weird. But Yaya’s obsession is still really disconcerting to endure. What age group is supposed to enjoy this?
The first few episodes rolled by… Raishin finds his mark – a guy called Magnus – and instead of outright challenging him to a duel, gives him a jar. We later learn this is a jar of ashes of the people he has supposedly killed… or something. Meanwhile, Raishin is recruited to help catch a sort of serial killer at the school called Cannibal Candy, who has made 26 students disappear, and all that’s remained are their broken automatons. This actually provided a good introduction to how Raishin can fight using Yaya, and aside from the goofy sort of stuff that wasn’t sitting well with me, was largely a nice little mystery that was wrapped up fairly fast. Yet, I’m sorry to say, I just wasn’t feeling it, overall.
Raishin has this dark, horrible past that we’re supposed to care about… yet we don’t. Yaya is meant to be funny… but she’s just disturbing on many levels. The other characters range between mediocre to horrible and, aside from Sigmund, the automaton of Charlotte, I didn’t care about anyone. And I only cared about Sigmund because he’s got a gentle Scottish accent I enjoyed. Speaking of accents…
The English voice acting in this anime is mostly terrible. You know when Americans think they can do really good UK accents and they just sound… horrible? Yeah, that. Times 50. Why they couldn’t have got voice actors from the UK or at least a country where the accent lends itself to doing a UK accent more readily (like Australia or New Zealand), I don’t know. Basically, imagine a chunk of the cast thinking they’re Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and another chunk channeling the (fake) Beatles accents in Yellow Submarine, and you’re pretty close to how the majority of characters sound. Raishin, meanwhile, sounds like a generic American young man anime voice… even though he’s Japanese. I guess accents are OK for some countries, but not others? Let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
As the episodes went on, it felt like each was largely centred around fights between puppeteers, using their automatons as proxies, basically. Rinse and repeat. Yaya’s creator showed up in an episode and gave what sounded like good advice, but didn’t really go anywhere. As we got close to the end of the 12 episodes, I was still waiting for the “Night Party” to happen and for Raishin to fight Magnus… and none of it happened! Some later reading revealed Unbreakable Machine-Doll to be 17 “light novels” and the anime covers about the first three of them. How ridiculous. It’s like watching Star Wars, but it ends when Luke’s looking at the binary sunset. You’d naturally think, wuuuuuut? What happens next? What was the point of what I just watched? Combined with the fact I found the animation style to be a bit childish (yet featured nudity, go figure), and the voices to be utterly terrible, and the story didn’t play out anywhere near as interesting as it sounded in its descriptions… to add to that a story that just ends with no actual point being made is just pathetic. This is the worst anime I’ve ever sat through.